Summerdance 2015: Lotus Delivers a Weekend of Memorable Music & Synergistic Bliss [Review]
Lotus has created a special reverence that continues to evolve in a way that is deep-rooted and organic. Without forcing themselves onto their audience or using played out promotional tools, they've built a dedicated fan base that is both loyal and respectful. Every year that fan base makes the annual trek to Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, Ohio for four sets of spectacular Lotus. It's quite evident that there's a magical connection between Lotus and Nelson Ledges. Most anyone who has seen Lotus play there will agree. This year proved to be one of the most magical performances of the bands recent history. The quintet returned to Summerdance with four stand-out sets, each one possessing unique elemental energy. This type of energy has become expected of them as of late. Lotus fans came from far and wide to experience the symbiosis that takes place. As the crowd at Summerdance continues to grow so does the love and respect for Lotus, both go hand in hand.
After everybody arrived on Friday and settled into their campsites, the fun began. Most spent their afternoons exploring the venue and swimming in the quarry. Music fans from far and wide reacquainted themselves with friends both old and new. The weather was warm and the water was perfect, it's a great feeling to have sand beneath your feet while you're getting down to some great music. Although Lotus didn't play on Friday, there wasn't a shortage of good music. Broccoli Samurai and the New Deal both threw down killer sets. Broccoli Samurai is a young Ohio jamtronica band that is hands down one of the best up and coming acts in the country. I become more and more impressed every time I see them play a festival set. They're extremely good at what they do - by blending the sounds of bands like the New Deal and Lotus, Broccoli Samurai has created a refreshed and original brand of jamtronica. They can play floating psychedelic jam-rock as well as untzy four on the floor livetronica next to the best.
Up next was the New Deal who I've seen multiple times this year. Since they announced their return with a new drummer, many fans have given mixed reviews of their sets. I'll be the first to say that their set at Summerdance was far from the best I've seen from them. It wasn't horrible but they didn't perform at the caliber that I've seen in the past. It took them a bit to get warmed up but the second half of their set was an all out dance party. Once they connect and get locked in, they have the ability to improvise with the best. Although it wasn't the greatest set that I've seen from them musically, I still had a fantastic time getting down with my friends.
I had one thing on my mind once Saturday morning came and it was two sets of Lotus. Plain and simple. I spent most of the day lounging at my campsite with friends after a quick dip in the cool water of the quarry. After all, I needed rest for a promising night of music and shenanigans. My friends that love Lotus are an interesting bunch of fun-loving characters from. Many of us share the love of traveling to see music and we have a good time doing so. A lot of people that travel to see music have some type of pain or yearning that hides deep beneath the surface. It's these gatherings like Summerdance that give everyone a chance to release and heal. Lotus provides a platform for like-minded people to get together and spread positivity. The reactions on the faces in the crowd proved this theory to be true. Besides my own personal reflection, I spend a lot of time observing how the music affects others. It's always a pleasure to see people getting down to a band they love, especially Lotus.
The band opened up their debut set of Summerdance 2015 with Inspector Norse by Todd Terje, one of the best covers in their recent catalogue of songs. The smooth disco hints eased the crowd into the first set of Summerdance. They've really been able to build on the song and make it their own. After a delicate Sunrain, the segment of the set started. Spaghetti into Wax exemplified the range of this band. When it comes to sound, the two songs are at opposite ends of their spectrum. Spaghetti was exactly what I needed in the first set. It instilled in me what I already knew, the weekend was going to be packed with high quality Lotus. Another prime example of the peaks and valleys that this band brings to the table. The riff of Tycho's Awake began and brought an instant feeling of surprise. The song was my favorite cover of the weekend. They nailed the composition without suffocating their creativity. Luke Miller placed it in the set-list perfectly. A phenomenal choice to follow such an explorative segment. A wave of ambience washed over the crowd turning it into a sea of smiles.
Contagion was the one song that I wanted to hear them play the most. I was ecstatic when they opened the second set with it. The song really gets the blood pumping and the body moving. It's a blend of electro-funk and jam-rock with a lot of originality and room to experiment. The rhythm section of Jesse Miller, Chuck Morris, and Mike Greenfield held it down while Luke Miller and Mike Rempel tossed the lead melody back and forth. It built into a super funked out rendition of Tip of the Tongue which always works great in a set. Lotus has really expanded on the original version, pushing it to new heights this year. The vocal samples fit the track very well, it's a soulful competition with a lot of open space. Mike Rempel went off at the end of the song like he always does, I feel like he really pushed a lot of the jams this weekend, Tip of the Tongue was one of them. By the end of the song everybody had holes under their feet from dancing in the sand so hard.
I was definitely impressed by the jam out of Plaid's Shackbu and into Did Fatt. Did Fatt is one of my all-time favorite Lotus songs, and it always will be. The version at Summerdance was another impeccable display of space rock, an eerie feel and extra-terrestrial theme stayed fluent throughout. New fans got a chance to see and feel why I love this song so much. It got re-implanted in the minds of old fans. Every member always gets a chance to shine and show their personal skills. When they're all on the same page, it can be a spectacular musical journey, and it was just that. From start to finish, it was free-flowing. Mike Rempel really opened it up at one point and Jesse Miller was right behind him with a thumping bass line. The entire band broke the song down into its rudimental rhythms and built it back up with a calming tenacity. They slid into Flower Sermon with an idealistic jam that was simple yet refined. Flower Sermon is a staple, if you love Lotus than you enjoy a good Flower Sermon. The set ended with a funky, soulful version of Strawberry Letter 23 and a powerful Hammerstrike. Rempel's tone really shined with the cowbells of Chuck Morris, as it always does on Strawberry Letter 23. The 1977 song by The Brothers Johnson has solidified its position in their rotation. Hammerstrike closed out the set and brought a perfect storm of rhythm and melody. It got everyone amped up for the next night, the energy at that point was palpable.
For any true fan of Lotus, it's no secret that the second night of Summerdance brought the best Lotus sets of the summer. They pushed their usual improvisation to a new level and their musical risks paid off. The jams ignited a burning energy in both the band and crowd. Lotus opened the final night with fan favorite Nematode. Another song that is an absolute staple in their catalogue. It was a sign that they were going to play one of the best Summerdance sets of all time. By opening the final night with Nematode and busting out Epidemic, they let fans know that they've been listening. Epidemic was the first bust out of the night, although it didn't have any type-two jamming, it was cool to see them dust it off. The thirty minute Middle Road was exactly what I want to see from this band. It was one of the deepest jams that I've ever seen from Lotus, if not the deepest. They took a massive step into uncharted territory. An excursion in the opposite direction of pre-meditated ideas. The jam turned into a locomotive that barreled down the tracks, each musician had a different role in keeping it going. It got planetary and explosive at some points, other times it was minimalistic and shadowy. The entire jam was littered with a multitude of elements from numerous genres. A bass fueled halftime drop brought a sharp funk-rock guitar solo by Mike Rempel, which was backed by synthesizers and percussion. The entire Middle Road was epic, lively and on the edge, but never too far over. The transition into Spiritualize was masterful. It was seamless and hit me on all fronts. I'd comfortably say that Spiritualize is the epitome of Lotus. The song represents exactly what Lotus is about. The band speaks to you through their instrumentation and improvisation, if you're in the right mind-state, the song can have a monumental effect on you. Spiritualize brought an intense tranquility that was felt by everyone, they stepped into the song with grace and executed with soul. The entire segment pumped life into Nelson Ledges. It closed the first set of the final night with a triumphant feeling of contagious inspiration. I've never seen Lotus play a four song set. It was impactful
The final set of Summerdance 2015 included a new Rat a Tat cover and an old classic that hasn't been played in fourteen years. The first three songs were cool but the second half of the set is where the real treasure laid. It began with Comptroller which brought out a balanced combination of dark and light, moving back and forth between the two. It set up the following song like a half court alley-oop. When the beginning notes of In The Bliss floated from Mike Rempel's guitar, it was a moment that I will never forget. The atmosphere became spaced out with the feeling of a lucid dream. It was inspiring to see people hypnotized by the drifting melodies of the timeless song; a song that so many fans have chased for so long. In The Bliss is the essence of early Lotus and I'm beyond grateful that I got to experience it live. The only thing that shocked me more than the initial notes what that they transitioned into Soma. Both songs represent what I love about Lotus. While they're both organic and abstract, they're not disjointed or sloppy. Soma delivered a certain poignancy that has become somewhat rare in the livetronica scene. I thought they were going to end it with Soma but I was wrong, they turned it up a notch and got everybody pumped with a throbbing 128. It's a four-on-the-floor dance-rock jam with heavy synthesizer layers, Luke Miller really showed off how the New Deal has influenced him. It rocked the crowd and ended the set on a high note.
Lotus came back out for a two song encore that left fans high and happy. Intro to a Cell was a great choice, the combination of Chuck's percussion and dueling guitars create a synergistic display of dynamic range. With a mighty peak, it had the crowd on their toes before being brought down one last time. Lotus is so good at doing just that, bringing the crowd all the way up and then setting them back down with gentle direction. Behind Midwest Storefronts closed out Summerdance 2015 with an emotional satisfaction, one that was felt by every single individual who truly loves this band. I saw a lot of tears and hugs during the song. It's one of those songs that holds special meaning to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. A symbiosis took place on the beach during that song, it let everybody know that everything was going to be alright. The light is going to shine through and the future is going to be bright. The stars smiled upon us all with a nurturing presence of natural comfort. Lotus ended the weekend with a perfect storm of songs; the band executed with precise playing and showed everyone that they're continuing to move onward and upward. They're doing so by never forgetting where they came from, never forgetting their roots. The sound and songs may chance but the emotion will always stay the same. Underneath it all Lotus is communicating a message of hope and peace, one that the world really needs. Keep your ears and eyes open, this is just the beginning.
Overall, it was the riskiest and most creative that I've ever seen Lotus play. The whole weekend had special moments scattered throughout, ones that I won't soon forget. The magical connection between Lotus and Nelson Ledges is alive and well. I'm curious to see what next year brings the band; I wish them continued success as their fan base grows and their shows evolve, thousands of people become more and more inspired. All five musicians are clicking with an alleviated sense of togetherness. Each band member contributes a necessary aspect; Luke Miller is the mind, Mike Rempel is the soul, Jesse Miller is the heart beat while Chuck Morris and Mike Greenfield are the backbone. The being of Lotus would not be able to function without each member putting forth their best effort. There's something esoteric about Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, and Lotus knows it. The combination of the two create an energy that is one in its own. Their songs filled the air with infectious bliss that was felt by all. Lotus is going everywhere without going anywhere. They are taking the music scene by storm without gimmicks and overzealous promotion. Authenticity goes a long way in music and Lotus has proven that. Summerdance was the pinnacle of their hard work and dedication, the band and fans know it. Absorb the energy and cast it back into the world with a smile on your face. Use what you felt at Summerdance to benefit your life. Remember, the Lotus vibes are everlasting.